On 14 May 2021 EPSO member-scientists and policy makers from sixteen countries across Europe held the fourth open-minded, informal meeting to assess the situation for research and development on New Plant Breeding Technologies (NPBTs) after the ruling of the ECJ in July 2018.

They exchanged views on the current situation of genome editing (GE) in Europe and possible next steps to enable Europe to better address climate change, achieve food and nutritional security, and establish a sustainable agriculture in Europe and world-wide. Such steps should bring the discussion forward on the EU legislation and facilitating potential flagships. The meeting was held under Chatham House Rules.


The next meeting will be held in November 2021.

As explained in our statement of 19.2.2019, EPSO offers to collaborate with policy makers to develop an appropriate future-ready regulation to enable the European public sector, small- and medium-sized companies and farmers to contribute more comprehensively to food and nutritional security and to use all available tools to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. Notwithstanding the technical option retained, EPSO supports a science-based revision of the present European legislation establishing a more proportionate product-based risk assessment. EPSO is also willing to contribute to the societal debate on genome editing and to communicate in a fact-based and yet accessible manner about innovative plant science and its societal role.


Ralf Wilhelm, Jens Sundstrom, Alan Schulman, Ernst van den Ende and Karin Metzlaff


Read the 4th meeting report 



  • Ralf Wilhelm & Jens Sundstrom, EPSO Chairs WG Agricultural Technologies
  • Alan Schulman, EPSO President
  • Ernst van den Ende, EPSO Board
  • Karin Metzlaff, EPSO Executive Director

The updated EPSO Briefing on the Horizon Europe Work Programmes 2021-22 has been published on the Members’ only website*. It contains all information for plant scientists already available in one document, It provides you as well additional researched information and final call texts published by the European Commission since 15 June 2021.

Updates concern  the evaluation of the projects and expert database (p16), country participation (p18), Pillar 1 (ERC WP2022 added, Marie Slodowska-Curie Actions, Research Infrastructures), all calls under Pillar 2, most importantly cluster 6 ‘Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment’, and Widening participation and Strengthening the European Research Area. For ERC 2022 Calls, EPSO encourages its members to check regularly on the Funding & Tenders platform the following calls ERC-2022-CoG, AdG, PoC2 and PER as they were not yet available on this platform when the briefing was updated. Finally, in the Widening programme there are many different tools with rather small budgets. Therefore, EPSO will offer a separate briefing if members show interest in this Work Programme.

 *Access to the Members’ only Website is restricted to EPSO active Members (not sleeping members, not external Personal Members) – please contact Sofia to get access.

Work Programmes covered in the briefing:

Excellent Science


  • MSCA Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action 2021-2022
    • MSCA-SE-2021: opening on 7.10.2021, closing 9.3.2022
    • MSCA-SE-2022: opening on 6.10.2022, closing 8.3.2023
    • MSCA-NIGHT-2022: closing on 7.10.2021
    • MSCA-COFUND-2021: opening on 12.10.2021, closing 10.2.2022
    • MSCA-COFUND-2022: opening on 11.10.2022, closing 9.2.2023
    • MSCA-PF-2021: opened 22.6.2021, closing on 12.10.2021
    • MSCA-PF-2022: opening on 13.4.2021, closing on 14.9.2022
    • MSCA-DN-2021: opened 22.6.2021, closing on 16.11.2021
    • MSCA-DN-2022: opening on 3.5.2022, closing on 15.11.2022


Global Challenges & European Industrial Competitiveness – Thematic clusters


Innovative Europe

Widening Participation and Strengthening the European research Area


Further Work Programmes are available on the Funding & Tenders portal

 Please, note that the list of calls is under update in the dedicated table of the Member only section., on EPSO website.

 Wishing you success with your proposals


Karin Metzlaff, Alexandra Barnoux and Alan Schulman


Contact: Karin Metzlaff


InnCoCells – Innovative high-value cosmetic products from plants and plant cells – is a four-year collaborative research and innovation project that aims to revolutionize the way cosmetic ingredients are discovered, manufactured and developed into validated cosmetic products.

For the next four years, 17 partners, representing 12 countries in Europe will be working together to develop sustainable production systems for plant-derived cosmetic ingredients.

“The main goal of the project is to develop sustainable natural cosmetic ingredients from plants using innovative production processes based on plant cell cultures and plants grown in the greenhouse, field or aeroponic facilities, as well as agricultural waste streams. Plants that are currently in danger of overharvesting will be cultivated in a sustainable and cost-effective manner to ensure that the new ingredients pose no risk to biodiversity or environmental health,” says Dr Kirsi-Marja Oksman, the coordinator of the project from the VTT (Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd)

InnCoCells is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no 101000373 with a budget of €7.9 million.

Partners are universities and research organizations, including two EPSO members VTT (FI) and Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (VIB / BE), SMEs and one large industry partner, EPSO and one sectorial organization representing the cosmetics industry.

EPSO will coordinate and engage the stakeholder group to facilitate their advice to project partners throughout the project on the planning and implementation from their point of view to optimise project results, their uptake and impact. They will support dissemination and exploitation of project results. The SHG will be invited annually to a project meeting EPSO will also support dissemination activities such as producing videos on the project.

By the end of the project, the InnCoCells researchers hope to have addressed seven key objectives:

  • Screening a range of plant species to find at least 10 with relevant metabolic pathways (being careful to observe access and benefit sharing rules).
  • Developing an evaluation pipeline to effectively test the plants for bioactive natural products, aiming to verify the activity of at least 50 ingredients.
  • At least 20 of these will lead to optimized production processes in cell cultures or whole plants, the latter grown in the greenhouse, field or aeroponic facilities.
  • Developing additional processes from at least 10 agricultural waste streams, using a cascade approach to produce multiple extracts from the same source to maximize value.
  • The fifth and sixth objectives involve the development of sustainable pilot-scale production and purification technologies for at least 10 active ingredients, and the assembly of product safety and regulatory dossiers as well as environmental assessments.
  • Sharing the knowledge generated in the project with cosmetics industry stakeholders and end-users, to help to commercialize the ingredients and develop products that will satisfy consumer demands.

Read the full Press release to know more.

Contacts: Dr Kirsi-Marja Oksman ([email protected]) and Dr Richard Twyman ([email protected])



The report concludes that ‘Agricultural support Is not providing desirable results for sustainability and human health, but repurposing it can be a game changer. It offers governments an opportunity to optimize the sue of scare public resources to transform food systems in ways that make them not only more efficient, but also more supportive of the SDGs.’

The six steps governments may follow include ‘identifying needed reforms’. ‘The time has come for greater collaboration and cooperation across government, research institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to develop evidence on which successful repurposing strategies can be built. The United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021 and other subsequent forums present a momentous opportunity to spearhead action in this direction.’

To this end, the EPSO workshop on further developing the EPSO concepts can make a valuable contribution from academia. It will be held online on 26 October 2021. EPSO members are invited to register with Karin Metzlaff to participate in the workshop.


The four main EPSO concepts to further elaborate on are:

  1. Address Food and Nutritional Security, environmental sustainability and human health in parallel as much as possible.
  2. Improve crops towards ‘Diverse crops for diverse diets and human and resilient production’
  3. ‘Combine approaches on crop improvement, crop management and crop processing’, to enable interdisciplinary approaches with co-benefits in Europe and beyond.
  4. Policy makers should define the goals to reach but leave the pathways how to achieve this open to the stakeholders to encourage innovation and combining advantages of different approaches.

An announcement of the workshop will be sent to EPSO members end of September.

Contact us to get involved in the coming weeks : Alan Schulman, Ulrich Schurr, Ernst van den Ende and Karin Metzlaff – EPSO President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Executive Director




  • EPSO statement on the Biodiversity Draft SRIA, 29.1.2021 [link]
  • EPSO draft statement on Nutritional security, 11.5.2020 [link]
  • EPSO statement on the EU Farm to Fork strategy, 2.6.2020 [link]
  • EPSO submission to EC mission ideas call, 30.3.2018 ‘1001 crops – diverse crops for diverse diets and human health and sustainable production’ [link]


The CHIC project aims to develop sets of new chicory varieties to produce, on one hand, more and healthier inulin food fiber and, on the other hand, identify and produce medicinal terpenes in sufficient amounts. These varieties are developed via genome editing. Safety, socio-economic and environmental impact as well as stakeholders’ needs and concerns when implementing such new varieties are also investigated in this project.

As highlights, the first chicory plants with adaptations in the genome of both the inulin and terpene biosynthesis pathways are now growing in the greenhouses until the stage that the effect of the adaptations on the inulin and terpene accumulation can be studied in the roots. Many more plants are still being produced. Methods for testing safety aspects such as off-target mutations are in development. Bioassays with extracts from roots of wild-type chicory have detected some interesting medicinal activities, including possible leads for novel antibiotics.

The CHIC project is also evaluated on its socio-economic and environmental impact six commercialisation scenarios were defined that differ in aspects such as whether CRISPR edited chicory is regulated as GMO or not, whether it is grown in the open field or greenhouses and what type of products are isolated from them.The changes at the regulatory field has consequences for the CHIC project.

Want to know more?  Read the fifth newsletter of CHIC project and explore the explanatory videos available at https://bit.ly/2DJa2Uf

EPSO is partner in the CHIC project focusing on stakeholder engagement and supporting communication.

CHIC is a research and innovation project supported through the EU Horizon 2020 funding programme with a budget of €7.3 million

Contacts: Macarena Sanz, ID Consortium, ES – Dirk Bosch, Wageningen University, NL (Coordinator)

The report summarises the current status, goals and next steps in plants and microbiomes research. It serves the science community to further advance the field and improve collaboration. It provides recommendations as science advice to policy to the European Commission and national research and innovation funders.

There are major national initiatives going on, reported were those from Germany (by Paul Schulze-Lefert), Denmark (by Mette Haubjerg Nicolaisen) and the Netherlands (by Harro Bouwmeester). These need to be better linked and complemented by Europe-wide initiatives under Horizon Europe, for example by calls in cluster 6 and openings to be created in the Biodiversity partnership and the Soil Mission.

Recommendations focus on the following issues:

  • Diverse crops with diverse microbiomes for diverse diets for human and animal health and resilient production systems
  • Moving from correlation to causation under lab, greenhouse and field conditions
  • More understanding on the complexity of the ecosystem-plant-microbiome system is needed
  • Plant mechanisms to attract / interact with microbiota require understanding
  • Precompetitive research should address the identification of microbiome-based plant health and resilience indicators and microbiome understanding needed by the industry
  • European infrastructure recommended for plant microbiome research
  • Open access databases integrating (plant) microbiome and meta-data are required

Detailed information from the break-out discussion groups, the workshop programme and the list of participants are available in the Annex to the report.

The group agreed on specific actions regarding infrastructure and databases for the coming months. The Working Group will meet again online end January 2022 to discuss their progress on these as well as hearing highlights from (multi-)national plants and microbiomes research and innovation.

Contact us to get involved in the coming months
Angela Sessitsch, Paul Schulze-Lefert, Corné Pieterse and Karin Metzlaff

Click here to read:  The workshop report and the Annex report, 1.9.2021

Angela Sessitsch, Paul Schulze-Lefert, Corné Pieterse and Karin Metzlaff